5 Parenting Books I Love
1. Kiss Me! by the Spanish paediatrician Carlos Gonzalez
Dr Gonzalez argues against a culture of parenting where the parent is “in charge” and children are considered “intrinsically bad or manipulative beings” who need to be brought in control as early as possible. He believes that children are inherently good, responsible, sociable, selfless and generous. He advocates “ethical parenting” where parents don’t adopt an antagonistic position with their children and don’t tirelessly work at making the child “disciplined” or “independent”.
Also, he believes that children’s bodies are programmed to know what they need and that it is best to follow their cues. He explains why children want to sleep with us at night, why going to nursery school can be such a traumatic event for them, why they cry if we leave the room, why they seem to never want to eat. He demolishes ideas like time-outs, behaviourism and the whole idea of “habits”, rewards and punishments, “training” babies to do various things – and he does it with infallible logic, immaculate research and brilliant humour. There are laugh out loud moments on every second page.
Chock-full of anecdotes, studies and beautiful wit, Dr Gonzalez will mould the way you parent forever!
2. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger and Diana West of the La Leche League
This is the ultimate bible on breastfeeding. As a Leader of the La Leche League myself, I completely trust the information in this book, which includes
• real-mom wisdom on breastfeeding comfortably—from avoiding sore nipples to simply enjoying the amazing bonding experience
• new insights into old approaches toward latching and attaching, ages and stages, and answers to the most-asked questions
• strategies for moms who choose to breastfeed for a short time or who plan to nurse for a year or more
• reassuring information on nursing after a C-section or delivery complications
• recent scientific data that highlight the many lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding
• helpful tips for building your support network—at home or when back at work
• nursing special-needs infants, premies, multiples, and how to thrive no matter what curveball life throws
• guidance on breast health issues, weight gain, day care, colic, postpartum depression, food allergies, and medications
Although assumed to come naturally to mother and child, breastfeeding is actually fraught with obstacles and challenges. There are, of course, medical issues sometimes, but more commonly, the problems are social and systemic. Massive marketing campaigns by infant formula manufacturers for the past century have created a medical system that is only waiting for the slightest lapse—real or perceived—in the breastfeeding relationship to introduce artificial milk to the baby. Waking multiple times every night and being strapped to a chair all day as a literal ‘mother dairy,’ social stigma around feeding in public places, inadequate pumping facilities in offices, and being plagued by constant self-doubt create both logistical problems and emotional stress for the mother.
It takes a village to raise a child but, in modern urban life, not only are young parents often in nuclear setups, but easy access to scientific information and global trends has led to a generation gap between new parents and their elders. For example, our parents’ generation was raising babies at the peak of the infant formula revolution. They do not necessarily understand or relate to exclusive and long-term breastfeeding. Doctors too receive very little training on breastfeeding and, more often than not, scapegoat it for any difficulty a parent may be facing. It’s difficult for them to problem-solve the art and science of breastfeeding, which is meant to be instinctive but is often not anymore.
In such a scenario, it’s very important for parents who want to breastfeed to have access to the right information. This book is a great starting point.
3. The Wonder Weeks by Frans X. Plooij, Hetty van de Rijt, and Xaviera Plas-Plooij
A wonderful, practical guide for the first 20 months of a baby’s life. This book marks out 10 clear developmental leaps that babies take – naming each one a “wonder week” (versus something like a “fussy period”) because, although hard on both babies and parents, each of these periods is actually a magical leap forward in a baby’s development.
From “the world of changing sensations” to “the world of sequences” to “the world of systems”, babies undergo a massive transformation and are almost reborn with a new consciousness every few weeks.Like a caterpillar struggling out of a cocoon and becoming a butterfly, babies who are undergoing such a transformation can sleep poorly, cry more, cling more, lose their appetites, experience separation or stranger anxiety, be less lively, regress in certain behaviours, throw tantrums etc, but then emerge as new beings with an amazing new set of skills.
The authors suggest that parents can actually help babies work their way through a wonder week and these periods should in fact be seen as opportunities to help our babies grow. They give practical suggestions and tips on how to encourage a baby to develop the next set of skills.
With my first baby, I followed the book and, with my second, the app. Although the dates didn’t always coincide exactly and some of the information repeats itself across the different wonder weeks, the central idea is useful and empowering. Wonder weeks often overlap with sleep regressions and babies do tend to sleep poorly when working on skills. Things miraculously improve once the skill is achieved and then a calm period ensues. Understanding this concept can make it easier to cope with some of those difficult weeks.
4. Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
I listened to the audiobook version of this and it was so wonderful! Alfie Kohn narrates it himself. His indignation, sarcasm and passion for the cause are so genuine. His mimicry of parents is laugh out loud funny! If you are currently lying next to or holding a sleeping baby, give this a shot 😊
Kohn’s central argument is that the one basic need of all children is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments and rewards (including praise and positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Kohn talks about the damage caused by leading children to believe they must earn our approval and offers practical strategies for shifting from “doing things to” our kids to “working with” our kids — including how to replace praise with the unconditional support that children need to grow into healthy, caring, responsible people.
5. The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
This fabulous book by “Dan” the neuropsychiatrist dad and Tina, the child development specialist mum, lays out the new science of child development based on an understanding of how a child’s brain grows and matures. The authors explain the roles of the different parts of the brain – the intuitive left brain and the logical right brain, the “reptile” brain and the “mammal” brain – and how they need to work together to maintain a state of calm or “integration”. Difficult moments with our children – tantrums, meltdowns, phobias, resistance, even sibling rivalry moments – are a result of “disintegration”. However, these difficult parenting moments – when we just somehow wish to “survive” – can be converted into “thrive” moments where the important, meaningful work of parenting takes place and we equip our children with tools to reintegrate their brains and surf the turmoils of life to find their state of equilibrium.
For example, if you find your child in a state of turmoil with the emotional right brain in a dominant state, it won’t work to try to meet them from a logical left brain approach. We will need to address the issue from our own right brains – with intuition, emotion and physical touch. Once we bring them to a state of equilibrium, we can appeal to their left brains.
The book is a good blend of science and practical strategies, with nearly half of every chapter devoted to a “What You Can Do”. Each chapter also ends with a short comic strip that explains the concept discussed in the chapter in a simple way that can be shown to 5-9 year old children themselves to give them a basic understanding of their own brains.